Blocking mu-opioid receptors inhibits social bonding in rituals

Sarah Jane Charles, Miguel Farias, Valerie van Mulukom, A Saraswati, Fraser Watts, Simon Dein, Robin Dunbar

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)
    45 Downloads (Pure)


    Religious rituals are universal human practices that play a seminal role in community bonding. In two experiments, we tested the role of mu-opioids as the active factor fostering social bonding. We used a mu-opioid blocker (naltrexone) in two double-blind studies of rituals from different religious traditions. We found the same effect across both studies, with naltrexone leading to significantly lower social bonding compared with placebo. These studies suggest that mu-opioids play a significant role in experiences of social bonding within ritual contexts.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20200485
    Number of pages5
    JournalBiology Letters
    Issue number10
    Early online date14 Oct 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2020

    Bibliographical note

    © 2020 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.


    • mu-opioids
    • naltrexone
    • ritual
    • ritual bonding
    • social bonding

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
    • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


    Dive into the research topics of 'Blocking mu-opioid receptors inhibits social bonding in rituals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this